One of Ray Harryhausen’s earliest stop motion projects was a military training film on how to build a bridge. In It Came from Beneath the Sea he got to destroy a famous one and create yet another vivid memory for his legion of fans. It Came from Beneath the Sea was the second film I had the pleasure to discuss with Ray Harryhausen (stop motion pioneer) at the 2003 Wonderfest in Louisville. Again I was joined by Einsiders writer Rusty White. You can find the actual interview at: http://einsiders.com/features/interviews/harryhausen.php.
Certainly this could not be considered one of Harryhausen’s most imaginative films. Still, the stop motion effects were incredible for their day. If the film suffers at all it is from enormous budget constraints, particularly when it came to the creature itself. Ray told me me, “It was a sextapus. If we had cut the budget any more it would have been a tripod!”
There were also concerns from the city fathers in San Francisco. Ray reminisced, “We sent the script to San Francisco and the city fathers said they didn’t want to have public confidence in the Golden Gate Bridge destroyed by having the bridge pulled down by an octopus. So they didn’t give us permission to operate, so we had to get our shots the best way we could. Through devious means.” Those “devious means”involved hiding film equipment in a bakery truck to get the necessary footage.
Genre veterans Faith Domergue and Kenneth Tobey deliver solid lead performances in this film. And “Sextapus” or not, this film is worth a look if you haven’t seen it. If you have seen the film before you didn’t waste any time getting your copy of the DVD.
Once again you’re dealing with a 1950’s film, so you have to adjust your expectations accordingly. This is actually a decent mono track with none of the high-end distortion found on other films of this era. Although there aren’t enough lows to drive your sub very far, there is an adequate bottom to the overall sound.
It Came from Beneath the Sea is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Another dated film, this transfer is not as bad as 20 Million Miles to Earth. Yes, there are numerous examples of film artifact but no obvious splices to ruin the film’s continuity. The black and white is faithfully reproduced here.
I am disappointed to once again report that Columbia has only seen fit to include the exact same documentaries found on every Ray Harryhausen release… “The Harryhausen Chronicles” documentary & “This Is Dynamation” featurette. He certainly deserves better. I have firsthand knowledge that there is a tremendous wealth of stuff out there that would be of keen interest to Harryhausen’s many fans.
This is not one of my favorite Harryhausen films, yet it is still superior to most of the things being done at the time. Harryhausen has effectively passed the baton to a great number of filmmakers who have moved in his wake. Inspired by Willis O’Brien and his first screening of King Kong, Harryhausen has now himself gone on to inspire others. At Wonderfest he remarked about Peter Jackson’s upcoming Kong remake and the 1970’s remake. “I understand that Peter Jackson wants to remake ‘King Kong’. If anyone is the right person to remake it, Peter Jackson is the man. If I had seen the Dino De Laurentis version when I was a child, I’d probably be a plumber today!” I won’t tell you to watch this film. “I reserve that privilege for myself.”